I will not go quietly into that empty nest.
Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about myself. And one of the most important things I’ve learned is that change is exceptionally hard for me. I don’t find new things all that exciting. I’m not super adventurous, and I’ve never been one to push the boundaries on much of anything.
I’ve learned that like many, I struggle with transitions and all the emotions that accompanying new life experiences. I know that for me, transitions are best done at a gradual pace. I’ve never been a “rip the band-aid off” kind of person.
That’s why when my oldest daughter left for college last August, I knew I needed to make the transition a positive experience. I became all about self-care. And thank goodness, I did – because my younger daughter will head to college in 18 months and then my son a few years after that.
I don’t want to turn around one day and be shocked and confused by what remains in my empty nest, so I have begun the transition now. Here’s what I’ve done so far:
Five Self-Care Strategies
1. I found a job I love. I didn’t go back into my field in the corporate world. I didn’t even go back to freelancing or contract work. Instead, I became an elementary school secretary at the same school my children attended. And let me tell you, it is by far the best job I have ever had. There’s something refreshing about being around little ones that takes the edge off the teenage years I encounter at home.
2. I am nurturing my spiritual life. When that first child flies the nest, it makes you realize how fast life is passing and that it’s time to take stock of where you’ve been, what you’ve done with your time and how you want to spend the rest of your days. For me, nurturing my spiritual life meant opening my home to an evening bible study for my friends who were also working moms. It has quickly become my favorite night of the month.
3. I am nurturing my health and well-being, basically for the same reasons as my spiritual life.Life is short, as we all know too well. Hopping on that elliptical at 5 am is not my ideal start to the day, but knowing that my children are slowly turning into adults makes me really want to be around for this next season of their lives. And I’ve even learned to like kale, so there’s that.
4. I am working to deepen friendships that I’ve neglected during my children’s busy middle and high school years.I am trying to make a concerted effort to have those lunches on the weekends, return those texts and phone calls. I want those authentic friendships back, and I want them around for a long time.
5. I am reconnecting with things I once loved before having kids.For example, reading was a passion of mine for years. I could finish several books a week. I am trying my best to make time for it again every night. I’ve put a lot of my interests on the back burner willingly for years — travel, cooking, entertaining. Time to bring my interests back to the forefront again and best to start a bit on them now.
When I feel myself starting to miss my college girl too much, I turn my focus to one of these five areas of self-care. These things, people and activities take the sting away. I know that in another five years when my younger two have flown, my plate won’t be as full and I will be able to focus on my life in a way a younger mother cannot. And I will enjoy and treasure that season I am sure, just as I have all the other seasons in my life.
In the meantime, I will continue to prep for that empty nest as best I can. I’m sure I will add to my list and adjust my focus over the years as time passes. Because self-care is a beautiful thing.
And who knows, I may even learn to love that 5am elliptical after all.
Kelly Hays is a freelance writer living in suburban Atlanta with her husband and children. She has also worked as a public relations and internal communications manager for The Home Depot, Inc. Her work has previously appeared on Grown and Flown.